October forest visit

Took advantage of the beautiful last day of October to do some work on the farms. We will be burning soon in Freeman, weather depending. I wanted to get some of the slash away from the trees. There are not many affected, so I could actually make an impact.
I also walked the fire lines, not so much to check them but to look at the beautiful forest now made much more accessible. It is also easier to see the contrasts now that the grass has turned brown and the leaves on the deciduous plants have turned color.

Common species are yellow poplar, red maple & sweet gum, but some of the most interesting are the sumac. I think that the sumac will have a big future on the farms. They are already common and they seem almost fireproof. They burn to the ground but come up from the roots even more robust. I am not sure how much competition they are for my crop pines, but I like them anyway, especially in the fall when they turn scarlet.

I also went to the Brodnax place. DoF did a patch burn in May of this year and will do another this winter. This is part of my NRCS contract to provide wildlife habitat in open woods. We already have lots of wildlife.

Being on the farms is a long day for me. I have to drive three hours each way and in order to get the most out of the visits, I go early and come back late. At this time of the year, with shortening days, it is what my father used to call “from can’t see to can’t see”. Anyway, I was a little tired so I took a short nap on my folding chair, less than a half hour. I heard what sounded like someone walking around, but I figured it was only the wind in the trees or maybe a half-asleep dream, so I did not look up. When I got up, I saw fresh deer tracks in the mud near my chair. The deer had come within about three meters. The hunters are going to have an easy time this year, since the local deer seem not to avoid humans. No worries about that, but there are also bears in the woods. I think I would have been more alarmed to see fresh bear tracks.

First three pictures are Freeman; last two are Brodnax. I think both looked especially beautiful today.

Notice trees are widely spaced. This is part of our plan to use the principles of southern pine diverse ecology. The wide spacing lets a lot of sunlight get to the surface. We also have patches of open ground. My research into southern forests indicates that this sort of mosaic pattern was common type in pre-settlement Virginia.

Freeman pictures

Brodnax pictures

New books on the forgotten Americans & the dignity of work

It is time for moderates to take back America from the hysterics and the screamers. We should judge policies by their usefulness, not by who advocates for them. I have seen studies showing that the same policies will be judged good or bad by partisans depending on their purported provenance. How about we just mix and match so that it gets hard to tell who had the “original” idea.
The good news is the raging moderates have been working on ideas on how to address some of the intractable problems of poverty and maybe more important the challenge of human dignity and I heard about three new books about work, money and human dignity.
The first speaker was Isabel Sawhill discussing her book “The Forgotten Americans: An Economic Agenda for a Divided Nation” (Yale University Press, 2018). I heard her earlier at Brookings. She started the same way by saying that she was shocked by the Trump victory and wanted to know why, so she got out of Washington to try to find out. He book is about the working class/poorer workers, which she defines as people w/o a college degree and earning less than the median income. These folks make up 38% of the workforce. Only about half of them are white, so we really cannot refer to them as the white working class.
Sawhill sees the need to combine what she calls “red state” values with “blue state” policies. The red state value she thinks is necessary is the commitment to hard work and personal responsibility. I understand that some liberals might object to this being called a red state value. Sawhill is herself a liberal. Liberals indeed believe in these things too, but often fear the touting them would lead to “blaming the victims.” This deprives the forgotten Americans of their agency.
Focus groups that Sawhill organized focus groups and found that the forgotten Americans feel under appreciated. They worked hard, often served our country and showed loyalty to their jobs but found little reciprocity. They are cynical about government, especially the federal government.
The “blue state” policy Sawhill advocates is a type of income support through the tax system. The people she talked to were not worried about getting jobs. The economy is working very well now to provide jobs to all who want them. But they are worried about not making enough money. Sawhill wants to boost take home pay by giving a tax credit to offset the payroll tax for the lowest third of workers. She wants to pay for this by upping the inheritance tax. If this is not possible politically, she would go with a carbon tax or VAT tax, anything that does not tax work, the way a payroll tax does.
Sawhill also advocates universal national service. This could be military service or other sorts of public service. The purpose is to mix the population and give young people some time to “find themselves.” I think this would be a good thing, especially for boys. Many kids are not mature enough to go to college when they are 18 and could make bad choices about careers. Better give them a “gap year”. The draft in the 1950s worked this way and of course so did the general service in World War II. She adds a permutation in that families could be encouraged to host a kid, much like we do with exchange students. There is much more to prosperity than just having money.
Oren Cass who wrote “The Once and Future Worker: A Vision for the Renewal of Work in America” (Encounter Books, 2018) emphasized the social and spiritual value of work. Work matters for a lot more than just money. In fact, giving people money w/o them doing something to earn it is corrupting to them and society.
He said that the idea that consumption is the key part of the equation is backward. In fact, production, making a good or providing a service is the more important part. He made a kind of radical statement that economic growth is more an emergent phenomenon that comes from good social and cultural conditions. He understands that this is a hard sell for policymakers, but says that employment is good and meaningful jobs, those that let people maintain their dignity, is more important than faster economic growth. Making is often better than having.
The Challenge for Business and Society: From Risk to Reward by [Litow, Stanley S.]
Last was “The Challenge for Business and Society: From Risk to Reward” by Stanley Litow (Wiley, 2018). He went through a useful history or what we would call progressivism, except that he was mostly talking about private enterprise. Macy’s pioneered health insurance for employees, for example, and American Express established a pension system in 1875. They did these things w/o the pressure of government action or the force of unions. Of course, he also talked about the nasty aspects of private enterprise. But the point he was making is that it was interactions between government, business and society that created and distributed wealth.
The firms that gave these benefits did not do this from a sense of charity, but rather a combination of what we would today call corporate social responsibility or enlightened self-interest. It helped the get and keep the best employees.
Anyway, I have the book “The Forgotten Americans”. Not sure if I will buy the others. I have literally a stack of books that I have been trying to push through.
The idea of the dignity of work and the new economy is a special interest of mine lately. I thought a lot about this – and still do – as a gentleman of leisure. In some ways I am part of the “gig economy” in that I work for State Department sometimes. In other ways, I am part of the non-profit, since I am on two non-profit boards. In part I am in the giving sector, since I contribute to non-profits. In part I am self-employed, since I run my forestry enterprise, but on bolstering all of this is a guaranteed base income, which is the key to security. I think this will be more like people in the future. We will need to find our own way and create our own lives. This is very exciting but also scary. I was, and sometimes still am, afraid that I would default into sleeping late and just watching bad TV. But it took me decades to develop the skills to be my own boss.
Hard to work for a tyrant like that.

First FHS board meeting

Did my first Forest History Society board meeting. It was very interesting and I think the FHS does very worthy work. Everybody was very nice to me and my fellow board members are great people – smart and committed.

My gentleman of leisure portfolio keeps me pretty busy. It was/is the way I designed it. I am not busier than I was when I was working, but there is often a greater diversity of activities. I do to lectures, study lots of books & tapes, participate now on two boards of directors, still get to work overseas for State Department and do my forestry. All of this is great and “retirement” is working out better than I planned. I guess I am feeling a little tired.

I expect that I will get over it. I often felt like this after an official trip or speaking series, even if, especially if, it was successful. It was kind of like, “what next?” When I worked for the FS, I had a defined job and somebody who could kick me in the rear, at least in theory, if I slowed down too much. Now I have only what I create and there is no push.
Well, enough of the end of trip angst, seen it before and will see it again. The angst never wins.

My pictures are from our last day in Durham. I had the usual beer. Chrissy did an old fashioned. Next two are Durham street scenes. Last is the floor at the restaurant “Mother & Sons” Trattoria. I took it by mistake, but I thought it looked good.

Forest History Society Durham, NC

I am down in Durham to join the board of directors of the Forest History Society. I went for the orientation today and we visited the future society headquarters.

The Forest History Society has an extensive collection of books and documents related to forestry. They also publish books and videos about forestry and ecology.

This is the Forest History Society webpage, gateway to blogs, publications, and videos.
The pictures are from the new headquarters. As you can see, it getting on toward being done. There is a lot of exposed wood and the structure is wood, as befits the mission. Lots of the material is donated by forest product industry. Notice especially the beautiful ceilings made out of southern pine.

One thing holding up the completion is the shortage of labor, especially skilled labor. I am hearing this all over the place. Unemployment is so low that it is hard to get anybody to do hard work, or sometimes skilled work. We are facing that problem planting and harvesting trees, and evidently with building too.

We also have our customary beer (or in this case for CJ wine) drinking pictures.They had a dinner for the board members that Chrissy and I got to enjoy.

Longleaf growing well

Chrissy came with me to the farms today so she could take pictures of me with my trees to give perspective of size.

First two pictures are my longleaf pine in Freeman, planted in 2012. We (DoF Adam Smith) burned them in February 2017. Next two are from the SMZ. There are some very big loblolly there, beautiful. Last is one of the baby longleaf (2 years old) on the Brodnax place.

I mentioned the longleaf and had pictures of how they had grown. The first two pictures are t2-year-old loblolly from the Brodnax place. Last is the 22-year old loblolly recently thinned in Freeman. Good to show the size with a human scale. The 2-year-olds are doing very well. As you see, some are more than six feet high and they are coming over the brush. You can well understand why people plant loblolly. They are so easy.

Chrissy & I are in Durham, NC for a meeting of the Forest History Society. I am interested in forests and I am interested in history, so I am going to be on the board of directors of that organization.

The Forest History Society has a research collections on books and documents related to forests and ecology. They also publish a magazine on forest history and one on ecological history. They are just finishing a new headquarters. I expect to see it tomorrow and will include some pictures and texts. Durham is the home of Duke University. The city was in long term economic decline, but has been doing better since it became part of the research triangle. Recently, it was featured in the book “The Smartest Places on Earth: Why Rustbelts Are the Emerging Hotspots of Global Innovation.”

Anyway, we got to Durham this afternoon. Seems a nice place there are lots of places to get a beer and we visited two of them.

The first, featured in the first two pictures, was the Bull & Burger. Next we visited “Taproom.” You pay by the ounce and fill your own cup. We tried a few different kinds and then settled down to a game of shoots and ladders. We used to play this game as kid. It is only random chance, but there is moral lessons. If a kid does good things, he climbs a ladder. If she does bad things, she slides down the shoot. As I recall, I won.

Thoughts on sustainable forestry

I attended the Sustainable Forestry Initiative meeting in Charlottesville today.  My part consisted of a few short comments about tree farm, and I do not going to talk about that or report on the meeting itself, but listening to the discussions gave me a few insights and ideas that I do want to mention in an informal way.  I am also leaving out names and attribution, not because it is a secret – on the contrary, these meetings are open – but because I am mixing my own impressions and not reporting only theirs.

Converting pine buffers to hardwood
Virginia best management practices (BMPs) say that we should leave riparian borders along streams, lakes and wetlands. These are places where we do little or no harvesting.  The intact forest protects the waters of the Commonwealth, provides places for wildlife (wildlife corridors) and adds to the diversity of the land. During our recent harvest in Freeman, we cut in around 65 acres, but left around 25 acres untouched as stream management zones/riparian barriers, i.e. almost a third of our land is off-limits.  I am glad to do this, and I am proud that it is a general practice among Virginia landowners.  I think the SMZs are among the most beautiful and interesting parts of our tree farms.
There are some very big loblolly pines in our SMZs. My guess is that that they are more than 60-70 years old, maybe more.  I noticed that many are in straight lines, indicating that they were planted – in less enlightened days, they planted right up to the streams – but I did not give it much thought.  At the SFI meeting, they were talking about the subject of pines in the SMZ. Left to its own devices, the SMZs are likely to develop into hardwood forest, since these areas would have been wet and not as likely to burn as in southern pine ecology.  It is natural from the ecological point of view.  The pines represent a medium succession environment.  Pines would grow naturally after a disturbance and gradually be shaded out absent another disturbance.  This might take a long time, not decades but into the century mark.  But it can be a problem for forestry.  How?

Persistence and proliferation of old-growth pines
Loblolly pines are prolific seed producers.  In a natural system, they seed into disturbed areas and quickly establish a pine forests as an early step in natural succession.  This is what the big loblolly pines in the SMZs do.  The problem comes with our own use of adjacent land.   A harvest is a disturbance, the kind that the loblolly will naturally seed.  We don’t want them.  We usually replant with genetically improved pines.  These grow faster and straighter, and they are much more resistant to disease and rust fungus.  The volunteers will NOT likely outcompete the planted trees, but they will compete with them, weakening the whole system. The thickly growing trees are more subject to blights, especially the southern pine beetle.  It would be easier if the big loblolly were not in the SMZs, within range of our planted pines.

BMPs allow us to harvest the big pines in the SMZs and that might be a good strategy.  I did not do it this time because of weather.  I asked the logger to get the big pines IF and only if it would not create significant damage to the soil and water. There was a lot of rain this year, and the logger decided that he could to go into the SMZ without creating a lot of tracks and erosion, so he left them alone.  I am glad he did not get them.  Some are very majestic.  They are on their way to being old-growth. Eventually, the hardwoods will come to replace them.  This will not happen in my lifetimes, but that is okay with me.

The cleansing fires
I have a plan for the seeding – fire.  When we burned the longleaf in 2017, I saw that the fire killed almost none of the longleaf (grateful for that) but almost all the volunteer loblolly.  If we start burning at around 4 years and then do it every 3-4, we will control the volunteers in the same way nature would have done.

Speaking of SMZs, externalities and riparian tax credits
I mentioned how we do not harvest in stream management zones and how that might put a significant part of our land off-limits.  I only recently learned about Virginia tax credits that you can get for NOT harvesting in SMZ.   This is fair, IMO, since we pay the property taxes on land that we do not use and by its non-use provides useful benefits for the larger community, at least for everybody who needs water.  This year, we got a credit on our Virginia taxes for not harvesting in our SMZ.  The agreement is that we did not harvest this year and will not harvest for at least 15 years.

The guy from DoF told me that very few people know about and even fewer take advantage of the riparian tax credit, so my ignorance was common.  They are trying to get the word out.  Protecting a SMZ is what economists would call a positive externality.  Negative externalities are easy to find.  Your neighbor’s charcoal grill belches smoke into your bedroom window, for example.  Positive externalities are harder to see, since we often take good things for granted.  The riparian tax credit is a good example of a small-scale public-private partnership.  The landowner does his part by protecting the SMZ, for which the government compensates him for the public good.

I learned that I was completely wrong about something I thought I knew, confirming the old adage that “It ain’t what you don’t know that hurts you; it is what you know that ain’t true.”
There was an Obama era regulation that regulated even dew points and intermittent streams on private lands.  I was worried about this regulation, since it seemed to me that I could not reasonably understand and comply.  I talked to somebody about it (the old talked to “some dude) who told me not to worry since I was too small a fish to be bothered.  This as cold comfort.  I don’t want to break the law and be safe only because I am obscure.  But I was less worried because I heard (again the “some dude” news source) that the Trump folks had rescinded.  They did not.  But not to worry.  Virginia is subject to WOTUS, but I am not as long as I am engaging in forestry activities and conforming with Virginia BMP.  Virginia BMPs are considered sufficient to be in compliance with the rules. The rules may still be rescinded, but whether or not they are, it will not change my behavior or responsibilities.  So I fretted about something not a problem.

Challenges of a good economy – labor shortages
Unemployment is so low that it is hard to find people to do the necessary work.  This may impact how and if we can take advantage of all our forests resources in Virginia.  A shortage of truckers is a long-term problem, as is a shortage of cutters and workers to run heavy machinery.  The trees can wait, but they cannot wait forever.  They continue to grow and develop.

Ironically, trees can get TOO big to be useful.  Saw timber is processed in mills that are set up to take trees that are not too big and not too small.  The Goldilocks tree is 28-34 years old for loblolly.  If they get too big, some of the really straight ones can be used for utility poles, but the less perfect ones are wasted or they are cut up and make into chips or pulp, a less valuable use.

Those big pines I talked about up top in the SMZs are probably already too big to be commercially viable.  This is okay with me.  As far as I am concerned, they will live out their lives and die naturally in around 100 years. By then they will just be big pine remnants among the hardwoods.  Or maybe the whole climate will be so different that it is not something I can conceive. This is not a worry for me.

Solar – not so green as you think
A distressing development is that forests in Virginia and North Carolina are being clear cut and converted to solar farms.  This is to provide “green power” to the likes of Google or Facebook.  I hate this.   If you clear cut a forest, you have not destroyed it unless or until it is not allowed to come back. Nothing is eliminated until it is replaced.  The solar farm destroys the forest and eliminates it by replacing it with those panels.

I just don’t get it.  There are acres and acres of parking lots not only near but in cities.  It gets pretty hot around here in summer.  It would be nice to have some shade.  I look for shady places in parking lots, usually w/o success. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a solar array to park under, kill two bird (and no trees) with one stone?  Why not?

We heard about 6000 acres bring cleared in Spotsylvania County.  This may be the biggest intact woodland in the county.  At least half of this will be converted to a solar farm.  Just say no.

Anyway, these are the ideas I took from the meeting.  I contributed little but got a lot. Glad they let me stay.  The meeting was at DoF in Charlottesville.  It is a two-hour drive, but the road Hwy 29 is a pleasant drive. Reminds me of going to get Mariza at UVA, so generally nice memory.

The new dynamics of global energy and climate: A conversation with Exelon CEO Chris Crane

America was plunged into an energy crisis soon after I graduated from HS, so besides drinking way too much beer as a freshman at University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, I was occupied with forestry and energy. I try to go to energy related programs at Brookings, AEI or Wilson and so I went today to “The new dynamics of global energy and climate: A conversation with Exelon CEO Chris Crane.” Exelon is the largest electric parent company in the United States by revenue, the largest regulated utility in the United States with approximately 10 million customers, and the largest operator of nuclear power plants in the United States.

Mr. Crane talked about his firm’s vision which includes providing reliable power and cutting carbon emissions. He said that you can believe in climate change or not, but that firms like his have to adapt to it because it is happening. To stave off the worst of climate change the USA will need to drop carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. This is a tall order. The electrical sector is off to a good start. We are down 25% based on 1990 figures, but it may get harder to do. This was done largely by substituting natural gas for much dirtier coal. Nobody really anticipated the big supply of cleaner and cheaper natural gas. We cannot count on that sort of good luck again.

Renewables like solar & wind are coming along very well, but they do not supply the base loads.
There are times when the wind doesn’t blow, and the sun doesn’t show. Base loads for the time being can be supplied only by fossil fuels, hydro or nuclear. Exelon is the largest operator of nuclear power plants. The nuclear power plants are losing money. They cannot compete with cheap natural gas, but they have a big advantage in that they do not emit CO2. If these plants went off line, CO2 emissions would necessarily rise. This is what happened in Germany. In their rush to be green, they shut down nukes and dirty coal plants took up the base-load task. There is currently a social benefit to keeping the nukes in business.

As a result, German CO2 emissions actually went up not in spite of but BECAUSE of their green movement.

Carbon taxes – the good, the bad & the unlikely
Exelon supports carbon taxes, specifically the Baker-Shultz plan (I have written about this on other occasions). Crane thinks that only market driven plans have a real chance for success. We should look to outcomes, rather than back any particular technology and let various techniques compete. We do not know which will be best, or maybe what combination will be most effective.

Challenges include developing better electrical storage and connecting pipelines and power lines. New England is at risk, for example, because activists have opposed and effectively shut down construction of electric transmission lines that could bring Canadian hydro-power and gas pipeline expansion to bring abundant American natural gas to the region. Ironically, Exelon power plants in New England that use natural gas need to import LNG, and these imports come from Russia.

Hydrogen economy  – perpetually five years in the future

The talk ended on a hopeful note. Crane talked about the hydrogen economy. This is not a new idea, but its accomplishment seems always to be five years away. Hydrogen is a perfect fuel. It burns cleanly, with the only emission being water vapor. The problem is that hydrogen really is not a fuel source, but more a storage medium. Hydrogen exists nowhere in nature in a pure form. It must be made. The most ecological method would be to divide it from oxygen in water. H2O is made of hydrogen and oxygen and it the most common thing on the earth’s surface. But separating the H from the O takes lots of energy. A process might be to use solar to make hydrogen when the sun is shining and then to use this hydrogen in fuel cells to make energy when it is dark.

My first picture is from Brookings. The program was from 2-3:30. This makes a difference to me. I ride my bike down, but I prefer to take the Metro back, since it is uphill and I am tired. I can take the Metro before 3 or after 7, so I had to hang around until 7. Fortunately, there are nice places to hang. The next picture and the video show the Botanical Garden, a great place to hang around. Notice the longleaf and lobolly pines. After that are some elm trees near the old USIA and last shows the kiosk at McDonald’s. You order electronically and then they bring your order.

Story of English

Chrissy & I went down to Smithsonian to unlock the wordhoard in a day-long program by Professor Anne Curzan, a linguist from University of Michigan. The real title was English Words: Etymologies and Curiosities. I just liked “wordhoard”. It is the old English for vocabulary. “He dipped into his wordhoard and said …” Another interesting phrase was “ban hus” or bone house. That means body. Professor Curzon read from old English. It is clearly a foreign language, but if you listen very hard you can perceive it is your language down deep.
There never was a pure English (or any other language) but English has a birth year – AD 449. That is the tradition date when the Anglo-Saxons crossed over to what would become England. Of course, they brought with them their Germanic language and it did change immediately when they crossed the water, but the separation began.

The Romans abandoned the province of Britannia. They just could not hang on, as barbarians streamed across the imperial borders and when in 410 the Visigoths sacked Rome, the emperor decided to cut Britannia loose. The Britons were not very warlike after nearly 400 years of Roman protection. W/o the Roman legions they could not defend their borders against barbarians and pirates who raided the coasts. So, they made the unwise choice of inviting German mercenaries to do their fighting for them, these were the Angles, Saxons and Jutes from what is now northern Germany and Denmark. They did a decent job dispatching the local threats, but they decided that they liked Britannia so much they would keep it. They send word back to their cousins that the land was good and the inhabitants weak. So began England (land of the Angles) and the English language.
This was the start of a long process that is not finished. English is truly a promiscuous language. The first English mixed liberally with Norse, brought by the Vikings. The Vikings raided and burned, but then they settled in large numbers. At that time Norse and English were still somewhat mutually intelligible. Much of England became bilingual and a kind of blended language. Norse contributed lots of words to English and caused the grammar to become simpler

as the non-native speakers dispensed with some of the more arcane forms.

England after around 800 was more a part of Scandinavia, culturally and linguistically, than it was western Europe. This changed in 1066 with the Norman Conquest. The Normans (as the name implies) were themselves of Viking stock, but they were by that time French speaking. French became the prestige language in England for the next four centuries. There were never very many Normans in England, but the ran the place and their language ruled too.

The interesting illustration shows the subordination of English. In the field, where they peasants work, the big grazing animal is a cow (English). When it comes into the castle it becomes beef (French). In the pen, it is a pig. When it comes into the castle it becomes pork. Same goes for sheep and mutton. In fact, you can see it in lots of words. An English peasant might live in a house. The Norman rich guy lived in a mansion. When it got really classy, it became a domicile. Domicile shows the other influence – Latin.

Latin came into the language all through its history, as it was the language of the Church and of educated elites, but there was a big jump following the 15th Century. Writers and others wanted to “improve” English, so they coined new words. You can see this happening in Chaucer and Shakespeare later.

I have gone on a little too much with the history. She also talked about how we develop slang and how the language changes and continues to change. Word meanings change, sometimes even turning around. We all have our peeves about particular words, but it can be a losing fight.

I personally dislike it when people use the word utilize. There is almost no case where simple use is not a better choice, but people think the longer word is more sophisticated. Professor Curzan mentioned the differences between among and between and said that the difference between imply and infer is lost for the masses. Young people are starting to use because as a preposition. Language changes.

Great living in Washington because there are so many programs like this.

My pictures are from Smithsonian. The last one is just me on the Mall. I know it looks like an old west stance. It is the hat that does it. Since I became “hair denied” I began to wear hats. Now I feel naked w/o one. The brimmed hat is great, keeps the sun out of your eyes and the rain off your face and neck. You can see why they invented them. But the risk is looking like an old west guy. I can stand that, but I will avoid standing like that in pictures.

Longleaf Pine Cooperators in Virginia

The Longleaf Cooperators is an informal group of people and organizations interested in restoring the longleaf pine ecology to Virginia. I went down to the Garland Gray Virginia nursery. More on that below.

I stopped at the Freeman place on the way down and enjoyed a beautiful time in the morning quiet dews and damps. We thinned the 22-year-old loblolly pines to 50 basal area and made quarter acre clearing in each acre. The DoF will burn under the trees and in the clearings and we will plant longleaf pine in December. By “we” I mean the kids and me, i.e. Mariza, Espen, Alex, Brendan and Chrissy.

It will not be very scientific. I have the planting sticks and the longleaf come in plugs. They are planted something like 10×10. You take four steps, push in the tool. Plant in the pine and push the dirt in with your foot. It is hard work, but rewarding.

It is great that they are willing to help, and I think it will be a wonderful experience that will continue to pay aesthetic and emotional dividends for lifetimes. Thank you.

I spent some time walking in the clearings, enjoying the immersion in nature and looking at the fire lines that Adam Smith at DoF has put in. I just love what we are creating, and it is a wonderful feeling just being in these woods. I will not see the completion of this project. As a matter of fact, nobody will see the completion because it is never done. That is a big part of the wonder. We can be part of the never ending change.

I have no artistic talent. (I tried to study “saxette” in 6th grade. Teacher told me that I was talent free and not to come back.) I cannot play music or paint pictures. This is my creative outlet. What I like about it is that I do not do it by myself, but rather can immerse myself in the greater whole of nature and human community. This is why I want the kids to be part. It is their share and years from now they can look at what they helped create and marvel.
The plan with this tract is to thin, as we did, burn as we will, and plant longleaf. It will create a kind of uneven aged forest, the type you might have found here in 1607. It will be not merely sustainable but regenerative. And this is more broadly what they longleaf cooperators are working to do. The longleaf ecology is the most diverse in non-tropical North America. There are a great variety of plants and animals in longleaf pine ecology and 920 documented species that live ONLY in longleaf ecology.

Notice that I usually do not call it a longleaf forest but use the clumsier term “longleaf ecology.” This is because a longleaf forest is more than the trees. The marvel of the longleaf ecology is that it is as much a grass and forbs system as a forest. Fire keeps the forest open, so that sunlight gets to the surface where a great variety of plants can grow, and animals can thrive.

In 1607, it is estimated 93 million acres of longleaf ecology thrived in southeastern America. Today there are only around 3 million acres and a few years ago there were only 200 in Virginia – NOT 200 acres. We are talking 200 trees. That was it. We are coming back now.

On our Freeman place, we are working to reestablish this WHOLE ecology. We are planting “pollinator habitat” with warm season grasses and wildflowers. I think it is already beautiful, as you seen in the pictures, but it will get better.

Forest Stewardship Plan for John Matel and Christine Johnson, Brodnax Tract

Forest Stewardship Plan for
John Matel and Christine Johnson, Brodnax Tract

This Forest Stewardship Management Plan covers the examination of approximately 135 acres of forestland in Brunswick Country, near Brodnax, Virginia. The tract map is included.
The tract is mostly flat. It includes approximately 117 acres of pine plantation, 18 acres of steam management zones.  The land was likely cleared for agriculture at one time, but has been forest for at least 70 years, as evidenced by old loblolly pines planted in rows that remain in some of the SMZs.
Overall wildlife habitat and forest health are being maintained and improved by thinning, burning and planting feed and pollinator habitat in patches in the woods and along the powerlines, and maintaining soft edges.
No endangered species of plants or animals were noted on the tract.
Forest Stewardship Management Plan
Landowners: John Matel & Christine Johnson
Forested acres: 135
Total acres: 135
Location: Brodnax, Virginia
Prepared by: John Matel
This Forest Stewardship Management Plan was designed to help guide the management activities of the natural resources on the property for the next ten years. The plan is based on our goals in harmony with the environment around you. Project recommendations are for your consideration.
The Goals for Managing the Property:

  1. Innovations in forest management to restore longleaf ecosystem
  2. Soil and Water Conservation.
  3. Improvement of wildlife habitat.
  4. Experiment with patch burning

Tract 1
Acres: 20
Forest Type: Longleaf pine
Species Present: Loblolly & longleaf pine, ailanthus, American sycamore, sweet gum, yellow poplar, eastern red cedar, hackberry, shortleaf pine, Virginia pine, mockernut hickory, white oak, chestnut oak, black oak, green ash, mulberry, sassafras, black cherry, persimmon, holly, black locust, blackgum, and red maple.
Age: Longleaf pine planted 2016.  Volunteers of other species same time.
Size: Planted 2016. Currently small
Quality: good.  IMO a little thin with longleaf.
Trees/acre: Thinly stocked for our management objectives, but enough, since we want to allow growth of grass and forbs.
Growth Rate: excellent.
The vegetative nature of this parcel provides benefits to wildlife due to the diversity of ground covers and understories.  We plan to

  • Do understory burns every 2-4 years. This will over time make the stand more exclusively longleaf
  • Create field borders on this parcel
  • Maintain and enhance diverse and native ground covers

Tract 2
Acres: 30
Forest Type: Loblolly pine planted 2016
Species Present: Longleaf & loblolly pine, sumac, some oak, ailanthus, American sycamore, sweet gum, yellow poplar, eastern red cedar, hackberry, shortleaf pine, Virginia pine, mockernut hickory, white oak, chestnut oak, black oak, green ash, mulberry, sassafras, black cherry, persimmon, holly, black locust, blackgum, and red maple.
Age: Planted in 2016
Size:  Tallest around 8 feet high in 2018
Quality: Excellent
Trees/acre: Adequately stocked.  Trees are widely spaced on purpose to allow wildlife and understory growth
Growth Rate: Excellent
Parcel will be burned o/a 2021, a cool season fire to clear hardwood and thin volunteer loblolly.   Density will be maintained low enough to allow growth of forbs and grass for wildlife habitat.
Tract 3 a, b & c
Acres: 45
Forest Type: Loblolly & longleaf pine.
Species Present: Loblolly and longleaf pine, ailanthus, American sycamore, sweet gum, yellow poplar, eastern red cedar, hackberry, shortleaf pine, Virginia pine, mockernut hickory, white oak, chestnut oak, black oak, green ash, mulberry, sassafras, black cherry, persimmon, holly, black locust, blackgum, and red maple.
Age: Loblolly planted 1992. Longleaf pine planted 2018/19
Size: chip and saw to sawtimber, loblolly; longleaf are seedlings
Quality:  excellent
Trees/acre: Adequately stocked, although purposely thinner than standard management due to our desire to maintain wildlife habitat.
Growth Rate: Excellent
Tract a, b & c will be burned in alternatively to create and maintain wildlife habitat and maintain a fire regime more like pre-settlement patterns in Virginia. This tract also includes pollinator habitat planted in 2018 along the edges.  We hope and expect this to seed into the sunny forest.
Tract 4 a, b & c
Acres: 24
Forest Type: Loblolly pine.
Species Present: Loblolly and longleaf pine, ailanthus, American sycamore, sweet gum, yellow poplar, eastern red cedar, hackberry, shortleaf pine, Virginia pine, mockernut hickory, white oak, chestnut oak, black oak, green ash, mulberry, sassafras, black cherry, persimmon, holly, black locust, blackgum, and red maple.
Age: Loblolly planted 2007
Size: mostly pulp; some chip and saw
Quality:  excellent
Trees/acre: Adequately stocked, maybe even a bit too tight.  Shade does not allow much to grow on the ground under the trees.
Growth Rate: Excellent
Tract a, & c will be burned in alternatively to thin in lieu of pre-commercial thinning.  Track 4b will be left unburned as a control plot
Acres: 18
Forest Type: Mixed hardwoods and pine.
Species Present: Loblolly pine, ailanthus, American beech, American sycamore, sweet gum, yellow poplar, eastern red cedar, hackberry, shortleaf pine, Virginia pine, mockernut hickory, white oak, chestnut oak, black oak, green ash, mulberry, sassafras, black cherry, persimmon, holly, black locust, blackgum, and red maple.
Age: 40 to 80 years
Size: Various sizes including significant saw timber.  (10 to 18 inches in diameter)
Quality: Good to excellent
Trees/acre: Adequately stocked
Growth Rate: Good to excellent
This parcel is in place to protect water quality and to provide wildlife corridors.  We will periodically examine the SMZs for invasive species and treat as appropriate.  Beyond that, this area will be generally left to natural processes, with interventions only in the case of some sort of disaster, such as fire or particularly violent storms.
Wildlife Recommendations
Field Borders
Field borders are established along woodland edges and major drainages. Field borders create vegetative transition zones between cover types. Such zones are much more attractive to wildlife than the abrupt change that often occurs, for example, between field and forest.
Daylighting consists of cutting most,  not all, trees in a specified area to encourage and accelerate the growing and non-shade tolerant plants. Existing shrubs, vines and herbaceous (non-woody) plants should be left undisturbed to the extent possible. Woodland edges should be daylighted to a depth of 40 feet, recognizing that remaining trees will quickly reach out to shade the opening. Field borders established by daylighting have the advantage of taking no acreage from existing open land.
Where the loss of open land is not a major concern, a natural border can also be created by allowing woody plants to invade and encroach into existing open edges. “Encroachment” borders, like those daylighted, should be wide, at least 30 feet. Where grass is well established, this should be destroyed by plowing or by the use of a herbicide. This will speed up the invasion of the more desirable “border plants.” The establishment of field borders using this practice requires the least expense and labor.
If natural borders seem undesirable (perhaps from an aesthetic standpoint); the planting of shrubs is an option frequently used. Additionally, with the use of these, the results are more reliable, and, in the long run, maintenance will be less (natural borders will be invaded with trees that should be cut back periodically). The transition from field to tree line should be gradual in height. Here, shrub plantings also have an advantage. By proper selection and arrangement of shrub varieties, the border can be a stair step from field to treetop. Taller growing shrubs, such as Mountain Ash should be placed next to the woods. Lower growing varieties, such as the shrub dogwoods or bi-color (VA-70) lespedeza should be placed against the taller varieties. The total depth of a shrub border should be at least 20 feet.
The final touch to any border is the establishment of a herbaceous strip along the open side. These may not be necessary, if the border joins an annually tilled or recently fallowed field. If not, a strip 10 to 20 feet wide parallel to and adjoining the border should be plowed or disked. This can remain fallow for up to two or three years, allowing annual native plants to grow back many of which provide excellent wildlife food and cover. Or, if desired, these strips can be seeded using one of the warm-season grasses, white clover, Korean or Kobe lespedeza, or one of the locally well suited agricultural grains.
Borders need not completely rim every field or fringe every wood line. Yet, they should be employed to the greatest extent possible. Good field borders provide food, cover, and security. Perhaps equally important, they provide a most favorable “edge,” a critical component in the habitat chosen by most wildlife.
Open Fields
Probably the best practice to enhance open fields for wildlife is the establishment of field borders. These have been described.
Tract 3
This area was thinned in 2017 to 50 BA. Thinning will increase their ecological value to wildlife. Thinning allows sunlight to reach the forest floor which stimulates the growth of forbs, legumes, and other herbaceous material. Tree tops left on the forest floor provide temporary cover and nesting places. Thinning can also increase mast production of healthy oaks and hickories.
Snags, dead or deteriorating trees, are an important habitat component in forests for wildlife. The availability of snags on forest lands affects the abundance, diversity and species richness of cavity nesting birds and mammals. Two to four snags per acre should be maintained in the forest. Such trees provide forage, cover, perches, and nesting sites for wildlife species such as raccoons, bats, flying squirrels, snakes, owls, woodpeckers, bluebirds (near open areas), and wrens, to name but a few. When snags are lacking in a forest, they can be created by girdling trees of poor quality or health.
A prescribed fire in 2018 left a couple dozen trees dead.  They will be left as snags.
Forest Openings
This area benefits from the development of forest openings to encourage the development of low growing plants. There are opening on all tracts
Prescribed Burning
Periodic burning is a tool used. Please see above.
Logging Roads
Soil erosion can be prevented through the careful location and maintenance of logging roads. Dominion Power maintains an access road along the power lines.  This is the only regular road on the land.
Broad base dips and drainage ditches should be placed 20 feet apart on steep slopes and 50 feet apart on medium slopes. Loading areas should be seeded in game food after harvest. When logging is complete, ruts and gullies should be filled and the road should be out-sloped slightly. Closing of roads to unauthorized traffic will prevent damage to newly sown grass or wildlife food. More information is available in the enclosed brochure.
Skid trails, haul roads, and log decks should be seeded with a mix of orchard grass and ladino clover.
Prepared by: _John Matel____________________________
Suggested Schedule of Management Activities

20183aGrowing season burn
20183aUnderstory plant longleaf
3c & 4c
3b & 4a
Winter burn
Winter burn
2021/221 & 2Winter burn
2022SMZRemove invasive species
20233b & c Clear cut harvest
20233aHarvest leaving 8 seed trees per acre
20234a, b & cFirst thinning to 80 BA
20233 & 4Spray
20243b & cPlant with Longleaf pine 400/acre
20243aSeed tree regeneration
20251Winter burn
20281 & 3b & cWinter burn
20304a, b & cThinning to 50 BA
20303aRemove seed trees
20301, 2, 3b & cWinter burn

This schedule may need to be adjusted depending on financial needs, timber markets, timing of actual harvest, and availability of contractors.